The Peter Hall Performing Arts Centre, The Perse School
The Perse School, founded in 1615, boasts a number of eminent alumni across the arts including the founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Sir Peter Hall. In honour of him and his contributions to theatre, the school’s ambitious new Haworth Tompkins-designed performing arts centre bears his name.
Exterior, The Peter Hall Performing Arts Centre, The Perse School. © Philip Vile
Seen by the school as its most ‘radical development’ in over fifty years, the vision for a performing arts centre was heralded as ‘an environment in which everyone - whether artist, scientist or mathematician - can develop self-expression and fluency.’ It would also be the cornerstone of its 400th-anniversary celebrations.
With the blessing of his family, the new building has been named the Peter Hall Performing Arts Centre, in honour of Sir Peter Hall CBE, the Perse alumna, founder of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre who died in September 2017 following a long illness.
“...part of an emerging number of school performance venues that offer a professional standard of facilities on a par with several smaller West End theatres”
With the blessing of his family, the new building has been named the Peter Hall Performing Arts Centre, in honour of Sir Peter Hall CBE. © Philip Vile
The building also hosts wardrobe and props stores, a green room and dressing rooms, a workshop, production office and foyers. © Philip Vile
Meeting nooks adorn the walls of the foyer's upper levels. © Philip Vile
Now complete, the new building accommodates a flexible 370-seat auditorium as well as exhibition and rehearsal spaces. The building also hosts wardrobe and props stores, a green room and dressing rooms, a workshop, production office and foyers. Charcoalblue was appointed by the school in 2013 to assist them in developing the brief for the new arts centre and in the selection of a suitable architect.
Following the appointment of Haworth Tompkins, we provided full theatre consultancy and acoustics design services for the project, supporting the architects and the rest of the design team in creating a building which is a significant addition to the artistic and dramatic life of the school.
The foyer is bathed in light from floor-to-ceiling glazing. © Philip Vile
A major part of the brief was to provide a room that could quickly transform from ‘assembly mode’ into ‘theatre mode’, which is why we ended up designing and specifying mechanically assisted rostra for the front two rows of seating. This allows the school to gain extra rows of seating in minutes, and then for theatre mode have the depth of stage they require for their full-scale musicals and orchestral events.
The auditorium as seen from the stage. © Fred Howarth.
Variable acoustics play a key part in this reconfiguration and the overall auditorium design. Being able to adjust the room acoustics quickly and easily is pivotal to the successful operation of the space – the work the school are doing is so diverse that the acoustics need to be able to adapt to allow for, and enhance, the varied programme of events. There are no fewer than 6 types of acoustic concepts adopted for the PAC auditorium – these range from variable acoustic curtains and angled ply panels, to soffit build-up details and sound-absorbing finishes.
The stalls can be reconfigured from a thrust stage to end-on to in-the-round. © Fred Howarth.
The Perse School
We provided full theatre consultancy and acoustics design services for the project. © Fred Howarth.
A major part of the brief was to provide a room that could quickly transform from ‘assembly mode’ into ‘theatre mode’. © Philip Vile
Sir Peter Hall’s legacy lives on with opening of new performing arts centre at The Perse